My favourite All-Ireland football final: our writers’ memories

If these don’t get you in the mood for tomorrow’s final, nothing will.

Updated at 14.59

Sean Farrell: Tyrone 1-16 Kerry 2-10 (2005)

Obviously we all remember that day in the Polo Grounds like it was yesterday, but if you want to narrow it down to finals we were actually alive for, then it has to be 2005.

My standout memory from the year as a whole was actually not Owen Mulligan’s goal against Dublin, but rather in the semi-final when Peter Canavan stood under the Hogan Stand with a chance to beat Ulster champions Armagh no earlier than the 72nd minute.

That was Tyrone’s ninth game of the summer. Kerry formed the opposition in their 10th.

With Canavan’s legs on the wane, Mickey Harte managed his impact to perfection and that’s a word easily applied to his first half goal after reappearing from the bench.

If there’s a cooler weak-foot finish in front of a desperate Hill 16 on All-Ireland final day, then I can’t wait to see it.

YouTube credit: RoryDevlin85

Paul Fennessy: Dublin 1-10 Tyrone 0-12 (1995)

As is presumably the case with most people as youngsters, sport for me in 1995 seemed somehow more magical, unpredictable and fulfilling than it does when you become an adult.

Back then, the Irish football team were still regularly qualifying for tournaments (or producing less satisfying but equally entertaining draws with Liechtenstein), I firmly believed Jonah Lomu was some sort of superhero owing to his ability to seemingly score whenever he got the ball at the Rugby World Cup, and my favourite football club Tottenham had just had their best season in years largely thanks to the improbable acquisition of German superstar Jurgen Klinsmann.

Yet perhaps most surprisingly of all, Dublin won the All-Ireland. At the age of seven-going-on-eight, Klinsmann and Lomu appeared as if they might as well be from Mars, and even the Irish team had exotic-seeming players who were plying their trade in England, while people like Ray Houghton had different accents to me for reasons I had yet to grasp.

imageINPHO/Tom Honan

But what made Dublin’s triumph special was that the team contained players like Charlie Redmond and Dessie Farrell – the type of people I could imagine my Dad being friends with. Moreover, the side was not by any means devoid of glamour either, as it was provided by a talented 19-year-old by the name of Jason Sherlock.

So suddenly, in light of their victory, partaking in sport at a high level seemed an achievable goal, played by people who walked the same streets as me, rather than being the sole preserve of ginormous monsters from New Zealand.

Of course, I never became an athlete of note, but the dream — much like Dublin’s rare All-Ireland win — was nice while it lasted.

Paul Hosford: Cork 0-16 Down 0-15 (2010)

It’s weird to pick a game that I wasn’t in the country for, let alone at, but this is the only Cork victory I remember.

After coming through that epic semi-final against Dublin, I was, to quote my uncle, “physically drained”. I felt worse when I realised I was due to be on holiday for the final.

Myself and my girlfriend had gotten to Boston the night before and I immediately scouted out a place to watch it, finding an Irish bar not far from Government Centre.

The game itself was probably fairly poor for neutrals, but it was unbelievably tense and Cork managed to claw their way over the line.

My abiding memory of the day is jumping around with some lad from Cork before stepping out into glorious sunshine to go explore Boston.

image INPHO/Donall Farmer

Niall Kelly: Dublin 1-12 Kerry 1-11 (2011)

Apart from having my picture taken with Dessie Farrell and Paul Clarke when Sam came to visit our school, I was too young to fully appreciate Dublin’s All-Ireland win in 1995. I remember it, sure, but I didn’t quite realise just how precious it was.

Sixteen years later I got the message. There were years when I felt like I might never see the Dubs win an All-Ireland and four points down with eight minutes to go against Kerry (sure we haven’t beaten them in years) it seemed as far away as ever.

Those final minutes were magic. I remember leaping on the lad in front of me on the Hill — a friend of a friend who I’d only met a few hours earlier — when Kev Mc scored and then looking across at the pure excitement on the faces of my dad and my brother.

Standing just to the left of the posts, we were in the perfect position to judge the flight of Cluxton’s winning free. After 16 years, it was a moment worth waiting for.

YouTube Credit: VicMackey0

Steven O’Rourke: Galway 1-14 Kildare 1-10 (1998)

I hate the use the word favourite about an All-Ireland final that Kildare ended up losing but, seeing as it’s the only All-Ireland final they’ve reached in my lifetime, it has to be 1998.

I had been at every game that year and watched Kildare dethrone the previous three champions in Dublin, Meath and Kerry so, I’ll be honest, I went into the final feeling pretty confident of the lads getting the better of Galway.

imageINPHO/Andrew Paton

At half-time, with a three point lead, I began to wonder how I was going to get out of work that evening – I’d only gotten a ticket at the last minute and had to swap shifts in the petrol station where I worked – to celebrate the win and then Padraic Joyce did what he did and hearts were strewn all over the curragh on the way home.

Actually, just writing about this is making me depressed again. Why did I use the word favourite?

Patrick McCarry: Dublin 1-10 Tyrone 0-12 (1995)

1995 is the most memorable one for me because, for the first time I could actually remember, Dublin won an All-Ireland and Charlie Redmond was a hero when it counted. OK, he got sent off too but he will be forever remembered for exorcising his penalty miss ghosts against a decent Tyrone team and their young flyer Peter Canavan.

There was a great buzz around Dublin that year and the arrival of Jason Sherlock gave everyone hope that there would be no near miss this time out. All the teenage boys in my secondary school really responded to the complexities of the ‘Boom, Boom, Boom’ ditty that followed Jayo wherever he went.
From I remember from that day is shredded nerves, Keith Barr being a legend, Finbar McConnell be-decked in red, being worried about premature baldness (Canavan had wisps left and he was only 24), Redmond’s goal and the ‘here we go’ feeling when time had elapsed after Canavan missed a late free.

Sinéad O’Carroll: Donegal 0-18 Dublin 0-14 (1992)

Similar to Steven, the most memorable All-Ireland Football Final for me will always be 1998 as it is the only time I’ve seen Kildare reach those dizzying heights.

But because of the result, I can’t honestly say it was my favourite.

That honour goes to Donegal in 1992. It is the the first time I remember really engaging in the championship. Even though I was only seven, I realised that football was something really important – and not just an activity my brother played and I had to watch of a weekend.

imageINPHO/Billy Stickland

We had a school principal from Donegal and the excitement about it all was palpable, even in north Kildare (the fact they beat Dublin made it all the better, really). I remember the scenes on the telly, my best friend wearing the jersey to school (her Dad being a proud Donegal man) and even my mother being excited at the prospect of the underdog winning.

Anytime a county wins their first All-Ireland title is special so that’s the one for me. Plus, my friend’s Dad painted their entire bathroom green and gold. For the craic, like.

First published at 10.20

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